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Shaker seeks input on changing school start times


October 13, 2010
BELMONT — Shaker Regional School District is investigating whether parents think that, as research suggests, school is starting too early for their high school students.

Belmont High School Principal Russ Holden told parents at an Open House Thursday night that the district is in the "very preliminary" stages of looking at changing school start times. According to information compiled by school officials and handed out at the Open House, "research shows that teens naturally tend to fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the morning because their bodies are timed for later sleep onset and rising." Adolescents with early high school start times are "substantially sleep deprived," and that lack of sleep causes problems like mental fatigue, increased irritability, depression and difficulty processing information.

Right now, BHS starts at 7:25 a.m., Belmont Middle School starts at 7:45 a.m., and the elementary schools start at 8:15 a.m.

Possibilities include flipping the high school's start time with either the middle school's or the elementary schools', or starting everyone at 8:30 a.m. Holden said there are several options up for discussion, as well as potential obstacles, such as busing and less instruction time for student athletes who might have to leave school early to get to games.

Students who attend the Huot Technical Center and the Winnisquam Agriculture Center would still be able to with little impact on their schedule, and Holden said sports and other after-school activities wouldn't be severely affected either.

Still, he emphasized, at this stage the district wants to hear what parents think about a potential change, and school officials are aware that any change would affect all students and parents in some way.

"By no means are we trying to disrupt the district," Holden said.

Holden asked parents to fill out the survey that's on the high school website so he can pass the feedback on to the School Board. The board is scheduled to meet tonight, and Holden said any survey results gathered prior to then would be brought to the board for possible discussion at the meeting.

Only a couple parents at the Open House asked questions about the potential time changes. Holden said he's hoping the survey results will give them a better idea of how to proceed.

The school district has several articles available that show, among other things, how students attending schools that have pushed back their start times are getting more sleep and faring better on many levels.

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